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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Associated Press Reporter

Suspect charged with murder in assassination of Japan’s former leader Shinzo Abe

FILE - Tetsuya Yamagami, the alleged assassin of Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, exits a police station in Nara, western Japan, on July 10, 2022, on his way to local prosecutors' office. Yamagami is expected to face murder charges Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Japan's highest profile case in recent years. (Nobuki Ito/Kyodo News via AP, File)

Japanese prosecutors have formally charged the suspect in the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe with murder, local media reported.

Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested immediately after allegedly shooting Mr Abe with a homemade gun as the former leader was making a campaign speech in July outside a train station in Nara in western Japan.

Later that month, Yamagami was sent to an Osaka detention centre for a nearly six-month mental evaluation, which ended on Tuesday. Yamagami is back in police custody in Nara.

Prosecutors said results of his mental evaluation showed he is fit to stand trial. Yamagami was also charged with violating a gun control law.

FILE - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laughs while speaking at the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington on Feb. 22, 2013. Tetsuya Yamagami, Abe's suspected assassin, is expected to face murder charges Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Japan's highest profile case in recent years. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Police have said Yamagami told them that he killed Mr Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, because of his apparent links to a religious group that he hated.

In his statements and in social media postings attributed to him, Yamagami said he developed a grudge because his mother had made massive donations to the Unification Church that bankrupted his family and ruined his life.

Some Japanese have expressed sympathy for Yamagami, especially those who also suffered as children of followers of the South Korea-based Unification Church, which is known for pressuring adherents into making big donations and is considered a cult in Japan.

Thousands of people have signed a petition requesting leniency for Yamagami, and others have sent care packages to his relatives or the detention centre.

The investigation into the case has led to revelations of years of cosy ties between Mr Abe’s governing Liberal Democratic Party and the church since Mr Abe’s grandfather, former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the church take root in Japan in the 1960s over shared interests in conservative and anti-communist causes.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s popularity has plunged over his handling of the church controversy and for insisting on holding a rare, controversial state funeral for Mr Abe.

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